Acton’s Immigration Policy After Nearly Two Years: Part 2, Data and Police Comments

This Blog is a continuation of Part 1, posted on October 27, 2019. To read part one, CLICK HERE

To quantify the population of non-citizen lawbreakers within Acton between November 1, 2017 and November 1, 2019 Acton Forum asked Deputy Chief of Police, James Cogan to compile a list of police interactions with individuals who:

a. did not have identification from the US,
b. the outcome of the police interaction is either “arrest” or “criminal”, and
c. if relevant, each incident includes information of other forms of identification provided or statements
These data can be used for comparison to future trends and should be of interest to many readers. We’ve posted the summaries of each incident with the respective date as received by the police here: CLICK THIS LINK

A total of 21 individuals were either arrested, detained and released with a summons to appear in court later, detained for Protective Custody likely due to intoxication, or in one case given a written warning. As expected, violations range from minor to more severe. If reviewed carefully, these summaries provide a lot of valuable information and Acton Forum will update it from time to time with the assistance of the Acton Police. For example, the nationalities were positively determined in many cases with identification from home countries. In only two cases were the identifications completely unknown. The highest number of incidents were from Brazil (13), followed by El Salvador (4), Mexico (1), and Unknown (2). The incidents can be divided into categories: OUI (2), Traffic Violation including accidents (7), Equipment/Insurance/Registration (9), and Larceny (1).

Before exploring the details of the more severe incidents, I must make three important points.

1. It is not illegal for a foreign visitor to drive without a valid US drivers’ license, so long as they comply with Massachusetts state rules (which partly depend on the country of origin in order to transfer a license). For example, it is easier to transfer a license from our closest neighbors Canada and Mexico. However, once legally in the US, no one is allowed to drive with a foreign license for more than one year. After one year, they must take the same test everyone else is required to pass (written and driving).

2. How do the number of unlicensed foreigners compare to the total violations including US citizens from the same time period (Answer: 5,561). Of this total, 270 were unlicensed (but not necessarily foreign). As expected, the proportion of unlicensed immigrants violating laws compared to the total is small (less than 1 %).

3. As anyone familiar with statistical analysis knows even small percentages can result in meaningful impacts to those directly affected. For example, winning a lottery or being struck by lightning are statistically unlikely to occur to an individual within the greater population, but individuals DO win the lottery and are struck by lightning. Those individuals are profoundly affected. Furthermore, there are deliberate decisions a person can make to increase or decrease their likelihood of being impacted by low-probability events (e.g., deciding to purchase a lottery ticket, deciding to play golf or go to the beach on a stormy afternoon). It is important to consider this context whenever considering issues related to public policy and public safety.

Of the 20 incidents, two resulted in arrests for Operating Under the Influence (OUI). On January 13, 2018, a person providing a Brazilian passport was drunk, drinking while driving, AND had more than one child IN the car! On September 15, 2019 a person providing a Mexican passport was charged with OUI after an accident resulting in serious injury to 2 people. This operator stated he/she had been living the US for 15 years.

There is a longer list of individuals stopped for traffic violations/accidents without a valid license who admitted to/claimed to have been in the US for more than 1 year. On November 27, 2017 a person providing a fraudulent passport form El Salvador claimed to have lived in the US for 13 years. After an accident on June 4, 2018, the operator provided a Brazilian passport and claimed to have lived in MA for 14 years, but never obtained a license. On June 27, 2018 a person providing no identification claimed to have been in the US for two years. On October 11, 2018, a person producing a Brazilian passport claimed to have lived in the US for two years. On November 3, 2018 claiming to have lived in Acton for seven years produced a license and passport from El Salvador. On December 10, 2018 a person with “numerous charges of operating unlicensed” provided a license and passport from El Salvador. On August 1, 2019 an individual provided a Brazilian passport and claimed to have been in the country for two years. On October 10, 2019 there was an accident involving two vehicles. The operator of vehicle 2 provided a Brazilian passport and claimed to have been in the US for “a while”.

One of the take-home messages from this research is the lack of concern (exhibited by their actions) by many of the offenders specific to our public safety laws. Specifically, driving in Acton without a MA license after the one-year grace period (at least nine instances of 20), not being properly insured, driving an unregistered vehicle, or violating all of the above laws.

I am concerned that Acton’s Immigration Policy promotes a cultural shift and promotes inclusion of illegal immigrants over the rule of law. Acton Forum has provided direct examples of public safety incidents: OUIs, child endangerment, property damage, theft, and accidents caused by unlicensed and uninsured drivers behind the wheel of an unregistered vehicle. It is true that American citizens with licenses are guilty of equivalent infractions, but this Policy unnecessarily encourages immigrants, some with very little respect for our laws, to operate in our community.

Anyone, especially those in elected offices, who dismiss potential negative consequences due to perceived “small percentages” does so irresponsibly and without proportional consideration of innocent citizens.

Finally, I asked Deputy Chief Cogan for a statement on how the Policy has affected how the Acton Police do their job.

“Our Immigration Policy has not changed the way Acton Police perform our duties. Prior to having a policy on immigration our Department operated as we do today. All Persons coming into contact with our police officers or other personnel of the Department are afforded all of the civil and human rights and due process and equal protection safeguards available under the Constitution and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Town of Acton and treaties of the United States, as applicable, irrespective of their immigration status.”

Although I do not understand how immigrants are granted rights under the Constitution, I was relieved that our police department made sure that the language of the Policy did not affect their standard procedures. The Policy does not appear to have any regulatory teeth, thus is another example of virtue-signaling exhibiting the following sentiment: “Look at us, we have an immigration policy! We are progressive! No Hate Here!” I expect passing this policy made some people feel very good about themselves for a short time. In this case, I’m supportive of a policy that sounds more meaningful than it is. Although I do believe it does send a dangerous signal that many, many residents do not support (e.g., immigration laws are optional and public safety is not as important as inclusion.).

I also asked the Selectmen for any information or a statement on how they viewed the Policy since it has been enacted. Acton Forum readers would like to know if the Selectmen can provide ANY examples of how this policy has led to any measurable differences in our community. Did immigrants “come out from the shadows?” I received no response but remain hopeful they will reply after reading this article. There are many more related topics to explore the Selectman could help examine more carefully. Are there any illegal immigrants in our schools? If so, how are health records and immunization records reviewed and approved?

It is fascinating to observe how the pendulum swings. In Virginia, there is a movement to create sanctuary for gun owners because the incoming legislative majority is proposing drastic changes to state gun laws. Unlike the protection of illegal immigrants through town, city and sometimes state policies, what they are doing in Virginia is backed up by the Constitution. The Second Amendment clearly provides an individual citizen the right to defend themselves with firearms and was intended to prevent governments (state or federal) from disarming the citizens. Currently there are 76 of 95 counties within Virginia offering sanctuary from the proposed over-reaching, unconstitutional laws to their citizens. Like sanctuary policies intended to protect illegal immigrants, there are templates with legal terminology, but the wording has been modified in many cases between jurisdictions and we will have to wait and see how this effort may influence state legislators and what happens when they are challenged in court. Will they have judges like we do in MA (Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph) who help defendants sneak out the back of their courtroom when ICE was there to pick up said defendant? Buckle up, this is going to be a wild ride.

In my opinion, those that choose to immigrate here illegally have already exhibited high-risk behavior, which makes them more likely to violate laws compared to individuals who are averse to risk and would never consider knowingly violating immigration or any laws. We have enough of our own home-grown criminals, drunk drivers and dangerous individuals. I hope the Selectmen will reconsider this Policy because it signals to immigrants that our laws are meaningless and criminals are welcome to blend in with "otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants" (besides immigration fraud, which to many of us is very serious).

Is the word already out among illegal immigrants and their supporters that Acton is a Sanctuary Town? If more illegal immigrants are on their way, I hope they read the fine print because thankfully this Policy does not provide the protection they may expect.

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